Q&A with NBC Sports’ Arlo White, Lee Dixon and Rebecca Lowe

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Today a conference call was held with three key figures in NBC Sports’ coverage of the Barclays Premier League, lead announcer Arlo White, commentator Lee Dixon and presenter Rebecca Lowe. The panel were asked a variety of questions from reporters across the nation. Here is a paraphrased sampling of the questions and their responses.

With the title race likely coming down to three clubs, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, how would you intrigue the casual fan to watch the Premier League? 

Arlo White: While a limited amount of clubs may challenge at the top there are so many more subplots at play that may interest the causal fan. Finishing in a Champions League spot, a Europa League spot, and avoiding “the dreaded trap door” of relegation all make for exciting storylines. For the American fan I like to ask –  can you imagine what kind of drama would ensue if the New York Yankees had a bad season and were relegated to Triple A?

The competition for soccer broadcast rights has resulted in more soccer on television than ever before. Do you see this as the tipping point for soccer in the U.S.?

Arlo White:  I don’t think it’s ever been this popular in the United States. I spent time here in the ’80s and then again in 1991. I can remember sitting in the home of my relatives outside of Chicago and flipping through what seemed like hundreds of television channels in search of some football. Somewhere in the 300s or something I managed to find a channel showing Manchester United and there I saw a 17 year old Ryan Giggs thrashing a volley into the net against West Ham.

Things have come a long way since then but are we at a tipping point? We’ll have to wait and see. I just know there is a huge following and even if you’re the 6th, 7th or 8th most popular sport, in a country of 350 millions you’re still quite viable.

Who are your predictions to win the league and the scoring title? Also, who do you think will be the signing of the season?

Lee Dixon: It’s simply too tough to call at this point. I think there are 3-4 big transfers that have yet to go down and only when those do will we really have a feel for who can take the title.

Arlo White: It is difficult but I think City will win the league and Wilfried Bony will be the signing of the season. A lot of players have a difficult time adapting to the Premier League but Bony possesses the physical attributes to succeed and comes into England having scored 31 goals in 24 Eredivisie appearances last season.

Rebecca Lowe: So tough to call but I think Chelsea will win the league with City, Spurs and United in that order. I think Roberto Soldado will be the top scorer while West Ham’s Ravel Morrison will be the find of the season. He comes from a great pedigree at Manchester United and is finally coming into his own as a player.

What are the challenges you face trying to connect to American audiences? 

Lee Dixon: The general preparations will be the same. There are challenges for different audiences but the biggest thing is to give respect to the audience. The game is the most important thing and we won’t be dumbing it down. My strength is analytical but I try to convey my analysis as simply as possible. I think the key to is to say what’s in your head and that will translate to all audiences. No matter what country you’re from, the game takes care of itself.

Rebecca Lowe: A lot of the preparation is very similar. For me, there will be the slight difference between how I speak of the game in England and how the people in the U.S. want to hear it. So I need to be very aware of that. The other challenge is to concentrate on 10 games. I came from ESPN UK where we concentrated on just a single match. Most important for me is that I adapt to a new country, system, network and that I engage with the viewer.

What are your thoughts on the Wayne Rooney situation? Will he leave United? 

Lee Dixon: I don’t think he should leave but I think he will. He’s been quiet of late. I don’t see Rooney going abroad so that means he’ll need to be sold to a competitor, which could take the title away from United. If they sell to Chelsea it will be a huge double blow, not only losing him but losing him to a title competitor as well.

Arlo White: We’ll have to wait and see. It’s a game of cat and mouse, once one player goes then there’s money injected into the transfer market and they all go. At the end of the day, however, players generally get their wish.

Rebecca Lowe: It’s probably not even his decision to make but I don’t see how Moyes can let Rooney go. It’s hard enough for Moyes in his first year at Old Trafford, I just don’t know how United can put their manager in that position. If they do sell Rooney and end up finishing second Moyes will be left angry but it won’t be his problem.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

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The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

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That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.